As the Indo-US civil nuclear deal continues to be embroiled in a political debate in India, a top US official on Thursday said that Washington has "no grand design or master plan to pull India into a strategic alliance".
"There is no grand design for India. We are not trying to pull India into a strategic alliance. It's a misconception," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence James Clad said in New Delhi at an interactive discussion on the India-US defence relationship. The discussion was organised by think tank Observer Research Foundation.
"The US has no master plan for the world and for India. We don't have a plan to lure you into a subsidiary alliance. Nothing is further than the truth," he stressed.
"It's not a static, but an evolving relationship," he said.
"We are not seeking to pull you into an anti-Iranian alliance. We have different conceptions on Iran," he said.
"There is congressional concern. But it is for India to decide the relationship it wants to have with Iran," Clad replied when queried on US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher's remarks on Wednesday. Boucher asked the Indian government to explain "what is and what is not going on in its relations with Iran, as we are upfront in our relations with other countries like India."
"We don't see you as a small island in the Caribbean. India is increasingly a powerful presence in the world," Clad said.
Clad, a former correspondent of the Far Eastern Economic Review in India, said that the US' burgeoning defence relationship with India was "a significant driver" of the Indo-US relationship and stressed that New Delhi should diversify its procurement of military hardware which will "increase and not decrease its autonomy." Two US firms are key contenders for an Indian Air Force tender for 126 fighter jets that will cost over $10 billion.
Alluding to the recent multilateral exercise involving the navies of India, the US, Japan, Australia and Singapore, and the earlier docking of aircraft carrier USS Nimitz off Chennai, Clad said these were routine exercises aimed at improving interoperability between the navies of these countries and did not have any other agenda behind it.
The Left parties protested against the multilateral exercise, saying it was further proof of Washington trying to draw New Delhi into a strategic alliance.
The Left parties have fiercely opposed the India-US nuclear deal on the grounds that it isn't so much the text of the 123 agreement but the larger context of the India-US strategic relationship it was opposed to.
"We don't have time for grand conspiracies and grand strategies. There is no way we can intervene in a country of this size, wealth and importance even if we want to," Clad maintained.
"Instead of suspecting the US of grand designs, we should think in terms of overlapping interests between the two countries," he said.
Clad said that the US hoped India would become a member of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) but it would be up to New Delhi to take a decision on that.